Thursday, June 6, 2013

Blog 71: Visiting My Mom

I just came home yesterday after spending a week visiting my mom in the group home.  Upon first seeing her I noticed that she has lost some weight.  She basically hasn’t changed a whole awful lot since the three months have gone by from when I last saw her.  She has lost some muscle mass and control and sits somewhat slumped over in her chair, but she is able to walk as long as she is being supported on both sides.

I met the two new people who are her caregivers.  One is a woman slightly older than me, and her English is not very good, but she is very sweet.  The other is a middle-aged man who speaks good English.  Both are wonderful with my mom and I felt so at ease when I saw how they are with her.  I realized that my interpretation of my mom having feelings for this man, as I stated in my last blog post, were wrong.  My mom no longer talks about men or shows any signs of flirtatious behavior whatsoever.  Her giddiness from when we last spoke on the phone had nothing to do with the fact that a man was hired to care for her.  I believe, after observing her behavior, that it is due to whatever medication she is taking.  She would often start laughing for no apparent reason.  Anyway, this new caregiver asked for my phone number so he could keep in touch with me and let me know how my mom is doing and send pictures every once in awhile.  He understands that I miss her so much since I can’t see her as often as I would like.  He has sent me three pictures of her already.  I appreciate that so much since I don’t get any information from my sister who lives there.   

I saw how the caregivers change Mom’s diaper.  She is in a standing position and the man holds her up while the female changes her.  They said it’s easier that way.  She sure doesn’t like that.  It was really sad to see how my mom just leaned her head into the man’s arm and cried 'noooooo' as the woman took care of things.  She also complained loudly one day when the aides came to give her a shower.  It’s a two-person operation and mom sure let them know how much she hated it.  When they finished and were walking her back to her room she said ‘shit’ as she struggled with each step, shaking from the traumatic experience.  They sat her in her chair and left, as mom cried real tears.  She said, “I don’t like this,” as she cried so sadly.  I told her I know she doesn’t and I tried to reassure her that I will do whatever I can to make her happy.  She looked at me with a ray of hope in her eyes and said, “You will?”  She just seemed so defeated and it took several minutes to reassure her that everything is ok, and that it will be several days before she needs to have a “damn, stupid shower again!”  That made her laugh and we were on our way back to being happy again.

When I visit my mom I always get out my laptop or my iphone and show her old pictures and current pictures of the family.  She has forgotten so much.  I am trying to keep her memory alive, struggling to, but not being successful.  In any event, I feel that this is important for me to do.  Occasionally she will recognize someone in the photograph or at least seem to show some memory of it.  The picture on the top is of her looking at a picture of herself when she was younger.  Last time I showed her she recognized herself but I wasn't sure she did this time.    

The lady who runs the group home stopped by and told me that the doctor was there recently and met with her and Renee and discussed some things about my mom and her treatment.  She asked me if Renee had spoken with me about it.  I said that Renee and I don’t talk anymore.  She said she is so sorry and she told me his name and said that I could call him to find out what was discussed regarding my mom.  I said that I can’t do that because Renee doesn’t want anyone talking to the doctors or nurses about mom’s condition.  She said, “What?  You are her daughter!  If my sister did that to me I would be so very upset with her.”  I told her that I am upset with Renee but I can’t do anything.  She withholds all information from me because she is in charge and wants it that way.  This kind woman told me to write down the doctor’s number, it’s on the refrigerator, and she said, “You call him anyway.”  I said I can’t, but I appreciated her understanding of our situation.  I did write down the doctor's name and number, but I won’t be calling him because I'm sure he won't be able to talk to me. 

I brought my mom some treats on different days.  I brought her favorites…potato chips, chocolate candy, ice cream, and coke.  She loves those treats.  I also gave her a little purse with pockets and zippers and different compartments that she could play with.  She is always fidgeting with something, so I thought she’d like that.  She sure did, too, and must have worked the zippers and flaps for an hour.   Mom always liked buying new purses.  Her caregiver told me that she said, “Lizzie gave this to me.”  She remembered!

I painted mom’s fingernails and she held her hands motionless so I could do it.  Then I held her hands as the polish dried.  Mom let me rub her shoulders and her neck and arms.  She let me kiss her cheek and hug her and get close to her.  I saw a video of someone showing that if you get right up to the face of a person with Alzheimer’s, and get really close and look into their eyes while stroking their temples and speaking softly, that they will respond and come out of their world somewhat.  I did this with mom and oh boy, does it work!  I didn’t stroke her face because she didn’t seem to like it but I did get very close to her face as I held her hands, and I would say, “Mom, look at me, look at my eyes.”  She would do it and I cannot even begin to explain how this seemed to transform her into a blissful state.  She seemed to feel at ease, comforted, safe, loved, and she and I bonded when I did this.  I actually got a couple of videos of doing that with her.  I sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to her and she just looked into my eyes.  It was so wonderful.  I really feel that we both could deeply feel each other’s love.  I am so happy I got those beautiful moments on video.

Mom was not able to say her daughters’ names when I asked her but she was able to read them when I wrote the names on paper.  She couldn’t read her own name but she was able to read other words and even spell a couple of words.  She did know who I was because she would say my name while we were talking.  Yet if I asked her who I was she wasn't able to say my name.  It’s weird.   She also would say someone in the family’s name just out of the blue.  She mentioned her sister, three of her granddaughters, a grandson, and two of my ex-boyfriends.  She only said their name and that was all.  I don’t understand her mind but I am learning to accept what she says and does and communicate with her in ways that works for us. 

I told my mom I love her many, many times.  Most of the time she said it back to me, and probably not remembering that I just said it to her ten minutes prior.  She offered some words to me, too.  She told me I am beautiful and she said that I am perfect.  Those are words a mom tells her child, and those words tell me that she is still nurturing and loving her daughter. 

My son, daughter-in-law, and grandson came into town from California to visit my mom, their nana.  My daughter who lives close by also came for a visit.  She’s the one I stay with when I am in town.  It was sort of like old times.  Everyone enjoyed the company of my mom and she enjoyed their company, too.  My three year old grandson sang a song that he learned in pre-school to sing to his mom for Mother’s Day, and he modified it and changed the words from mommy to nana.  It was to the tune of ‘You Are My Sunshine’, the song I always sing to my mom.  It went like this…you are my nana, my special nana, you make me happy when skies are gray, you never know nana, how much I love you, so please don’t take my nana away.  He sang it perfectly!  My mom loved it, I could tell.   It took a little while for my grandson to warm up to her but when he did, he was being very loving to his great nana.  He seemed to understand her limitations and the way he related to her was very touching. 

On the last day of visiting my mom, Renee came in.  It was pretty uncomfortable but we managed to talk more as we realized neither of us was going to choke the other.  I don’t even want to get into what all we talked about but basically it went ok. I asked her about her kids and she didn’t ask about mine.  I told her I was proud of her after she told me about what she is doing for work.  I was a good sister and a good listener.  I told her I miss her.  I said that I am so sorry that we have all fallen apart and that we are no longer close.  I told her that life is short and we should do everything we can to make things better.  It won’t get better on it’s own, and by ignoring each other.  She tried to bring up old emails and texts and I felt my blood pressure going up.  I told her to let it go because we will never move forward when we keep going back.  I really don’t see anything changing after our talk and I’m still going to stand back and wait for her to initiate the next move.  I didn’t even ask her about the doctor visit or anything. 

I asked her how long Mom is going to be at the group home because I know her funds are running low.  She said for about two months and then she will have to go to another facility that has a Medicaid bed, and probably back in her hometown.  It’s like, she took her away, spent all of her money, and now she’s ready to ship her off back home.  Of course I didn’t say that to her.  I did say that she is our mom and I wish there was some way that one of us could take care of her.

Mom is scared.  I can sense it.  I don’t want her to be afraid.   Renee said that mom doesn’t want to live like this.  Of course she doesn’t.  She has no choice and we don’t either.  We have to make our mom feel safe and loved.  That is our job.  She gave us our life, we can’t give up on her.  We have to give her the best life we can because her life is in our hands now.   


  1. Your post has so many precious memories included...made me smile to picture you and your Momma spending time together and sharing your love for each other! Alz is such a rough illness...and it really tears families apart. Sorry that you have to experience this in your journey but know that many of us are in the same place. I am thankful that Mom and Dad came to live with my family 14 years ago. Daddy left for heaven almost a year ago now(very unexpectedly). Momma is further into the Alz journey than your our lives turned upside down...I moved out into their apartment to care for her. I still have 2 of our 7 young people that I am homeschooling plus my dear husband. So thankful that everyone is patient and helpful as I could not do this alone. God bless you!

    1. Thank you for your comment. This is a horrible disease and only those of us who experience it first hand really know how hard it is to go through life watching our loved one die a slow death. I commend you for taking care of your parents as well as your own family, and I'll be thinking of you as you go along on your own journey. God bless you!